Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. It’s that time of year again when we get together with family and friends to enjoy the time off from work and school. It is the time of year when we exchange gifts and have relaxing dinners with family. Occasionally, adults have alcoholic beverages in celebration of the season. Occasionally, our children may sneak alcohol out of the house. Minors will test boundaries and drink with other friends. This could have devastating consequences, turning this wonderful time of the year into tragedy and devastation. Too many people die every single year due to drinking, too many kids die every year due to underage drinking.
Who gets hurt you might ask? It’s just a few beers. I just had a wine cooler. People, kids like you get hurt. Three out of five Americans will be involved in an alcohol related car crash. Somebody is injured in an alcohol related car crash every 32 seconds.
Who gets killed? Really, I am just having fun with my friends. I am just dancing and listening to music. People like you get killed. In 2011 9,878 people died in alcohol related car crashes. About 42 young people die per week in drunk driving car crashes.
Alcohol can be deadly anytime and in any place. The dangers of drinking and driving might be clear, I hope. Here are some other facts to think about if you decide to drink. Out of fatal accidents such as falls, drownings etc., 4 out of 10 involved alcohol. Alcohol use on or around water is especially dangerous. Alcohol and depression are a deadly duo. In most suicides, alcohol or other drugs have been used. Don’t think you can overdose on alcohol. How about over 10,000 people die every year because of alcohol overdoses. Large amounts of alcohol is toxic and is as lethal as any other poison.
Alcohol also plays a role in violence. Consumption of alcohol resulted in over 10,000 murders last year. If you are not a suspect in a crime, you are most certainly more apt to be a victim if you are intoxicated. Women are more vulnerable to rape while drinking and you are also more vulnerable to be assaulted or robbed.
Consuming alcohol can be a lethal combination with any activity. Judgment is the first thing affected by alcohol. People who have been drinking often believe they have had less to drink than they actually have. Inhibitions become affected and people do things they normally would not if they were sober. Coordination, vision, and motor skills are drastically impaired by alcohol consumption. One harmless little drink my be lethal to someone behind the wheel.
How much is too much? If you are under 21 years old, the only answer is zero. Zero is the only completely safe alcohol consumption level. Most states have a zero tolerance for any consumption for minors. If you or anyone else is concerned about your sobriety, don’t drive. Get a ride or stay where your are. Spend the night if it’s safe to do so. Call a relative. If you find yourself having had a drink, call a person who has not had any alcohol or drugs.
People will die this holiday season, die because of alcohol and or drug consumption. Parents please talk to your children about alcohol and drug abuse. If they are under 21, it is abuse of alcohol. Please present a good example to them. Our children watch us, they see how we treat alcohol and they will mimic us.
I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday season. Please be safe and consider what I have written. People do not need to die this time of year or at anytime of the year. Keep our Kids Safe. If not us, than who?
It has come to my shocking attention that sex trafficking among our Nation’s youth is epidemic. In my many years in Law Enforcement, I never realized that children were being recruited and forced in the sex trade right here in America. I was appalled and thought that there must be a way to get involved. I needed to understand what this was about. I needed to educate myself and find the resources that would provide me with this information. I admitted that I knew basically nothing about child sex trafficking and in order for me to help put a stop to this, I needed to talk to the experts, I needed to learn what they knew.
I have had requests to write on this subject for the last few months. I told my readers that I would write my blog as soon as I was comfortable with the information and that I could write about it with some sort of knowledge. I am surely not an expert on the subject but I know that I need to advise my readers on the information that I have learned so far into my research.
What is Sex Trafficking? The Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines the crime of human trafficking as:
The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.
Domestic minor sex trafficking occurs when a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident minor are commercially sexually exploited. Children can be commercially sexually exploited through prostitution, pornography, and or erotic entertainment. Commercial aspects of the sexual exploitation is critical to separating the crime of trafficking from sexual assault, molestation or rape. Commercial sex act is the giving or receiving of anything of value (money, drugs, shelter, food, clothes, etc.) to any person in exchange for a sex act.
The age of the victim is the critical issue, there is no requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion was used to secure the victim’s actions. The law recognizes the effect of psychological manipulation by the trafficker, as well as the effect of threat of harm which traffickers/pimps use to maintain control over their young victims.
Now that we have all the legalese out and defined, we can start talking about the Who, What, Where, Why, and Hows.
Who are the victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking? Kids are especially susceptible to the deception and manipulation of traffickers. Traffickers recruit at locations that commonly attract youth, like schools, malls, parks, protective shelters,and group homes. Over 1.68 million American kids run away each year and become targets for traffickers. About 85% of DMST victims have experienced contact with the child welfare system, according to a New York Study. Boys and girls can be victims and the number one factor of vulnerability is the child’s age.
Human trafficking in the U.S. is a $9.8 Billion industry. At least 100,000 US children are exploited in prostitution every year in America. Thirteen years old is the average age a child is first exploited through prostitution. The traffickers are called pimps and more than 90% of victims are under the control of a pimp. Pimps commonly sell girls for $400.00 an hour or more. I have seen the research indicating that the majority of pimps control about 1-5 girls and can sell the girls several times a day. This has become more profitable than selling drugs.
We need to protect our children, It can, has and will happen in our backyard. We are not immune to this. There will be a time when you read about a girl in town that you knew has been a victim of DMST, Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. That the last time someone saw her was right after work in a local diner. Where did she go? Did she run away? Did someone abduct her? Why would she take off she had a great family life? She met a guy online. She is on her way to Phoenix to model. Bright lights Big city, money, fame. She ended up a sex slave, the promise never came. The nice guy lied to her.
We must emphasize prevention as the first priority. We must be pro-active. Parents, schools, child advocacy organizations, and youth groups need to work together in developing and disseminating messages related to the protection of children from sexual exploitation. Public media, especially television networks and the movie and music industry share a huge responsibility for distributing material with messages of Child Sexual Exploitation in our society. Together we need to come together as a society that treats our children with care. If not us then they will end up under the control of someone else, someone that I only briefly described above. If there is only one thing I can do, it is to educate and try to prevent this from happening. Then, maybe a child has a chance On My Watch.
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It’s that time of year again when the days are longer and warmer. Days spent with the family outside, cookouts and the water. School is on summer vacation and that means freedom for our kids. What it means for parents is more time that the child might have to stay at home alone and without parental supervision. Today’s parents both work and some families have just one parent in the primary home. Work is necessary but so is the safety of our kids. Latchkey children is a term that is used to describe children who have to stay at home alone at least some part of the day. Parents need to work and this a situation that worries the parent as they are concerned about their kids while still trying to work.
It is estimated that from 5 to 12 million children between the ages of 5 and 13 are at home alone for some period of time everyday. In many cases, their parents either cannot afford child care or none is available. Children who look after themselves are about 3 times more likely than those supervised by adults to be involved in accidents, engage in delinquent behavior or become a victim. Not all parents can be with their children all hours of the day. Parents must deal with the concern about how their children will cope being alone and what they will do during routine activities and potentially dangerous ones.
Some kids enjoy the challenge of taking care of themselves and like to have some added responsibilities. Some kids get lonely, bored, and scared. Parents can look at this time their kids are alone as an opportunity to discuss safety and crime prevention. This is also a positive time to help build self confidence and self-esteem. The more parents get involved with their kids and use this as a learning opportunity, the level of anxiety and possibility of dangers decreases.
Parents should set rules and limits while the child is home alone, slowly increasing responsibilities. Communicate to your children why they must be left alone and go over what they may or may not do to decrease their risks of injuries or becoming a victim. This will also decrease the parents worries and anxieties while they must be away.
Parents are encouraged to make available a “phone a friend” lifeline. This is not meant to replace the regular contact with the parent but it allows for a safe call in the cases where a parent can not get to the phone while at work. Designate this “phone a friend” and have the phone numbers available for your child.
Parents should check with your local city/town school and recreation departments for summer programs. Churches, neighborhood organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs or the YMCA are all good places to check.
If your children are to be alone at home, you need to go over routines that they need to follow. For example, household chores, taking care of pets, homework or summer reading. Make sure you go over policies that will pertain to them while they are home alone. These policies should include, who and what friends may come to the house, what to do when the doorbell rings, where and who the child may visit. Make sure you tell them what time you will be home.
Things you should teach your children before they are left alone:
The necessity of working sometimes makes it difficult to balance work and childcare. In any case, if your child has special needs, is too young, or is unable to take on the needed responsibilities of the latchkey child, it is important for parents to make sure the proper care is used.
Parents, Grandparents, and pretty much all families have prescription drugs in their home. This makes prescription drugs readily accessible for anyone to abuse. 1 in 5 children have abused prescription medicines. According to the CDC, every day 2,000 teenagers use prescription drugs to get high.
Children between the ages of 12 and 17 are more likely to abuse prescription drugs than they would cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and ecstasy combined. More than 70% of teenagers say that they obtain the drugs from family members and friends. The most common abused drug between the ages of 12 and 13 are prescription medicines.
What drugs are the most abused and most popular with teenagers? The categories of drugs are: Stimulants, Depressants, Hallucinogens, and Opiates/Opioid
Examples of Central Nervous System Stimulants are: Cocaine, Caffeine, Amphetamines, Ritalin, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Adderall.
People with ADHD are often prescribed stimulants like Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall to help with concentration and to keep them focused. Teens abuse these types of drugs to get high, to loose weight, and/or to stay awake and alert. Many students will abuse this medication during long hours of studying, trying to maintain alertness and concentration during long study times. Abusing this medicine has the same dangers as using cocaine. Because abusers will tend to crush the medication and snort it, smoke it, or inject it, it will have the same effect on the brain. This increases abuse risks and addiction.
What symptoms to look for in my child? Abusing prescription stimulants will increase heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature. Abusers will also experience headaches, anxiety, seizures, nausea, and possibly stroke and heart failure.
Examples of Central Nervous System Depressants are: Alcohol, Barbiturates, and Sedatives. Valium, Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta.
People with anxiety and sleep disorders are often prescribed Valium, Xanax, or Ambien type drugs. These types of drugs are abused and are taken to cause a mellow or sedating affect. What should a parent look for in these types of prescription abuse? Similar to alcohol, these prescribed medications can cause slurred speech, shallow breathing, lack of coordination, loss of inhibitions, fatigue, slowed heart rate, coma, and death. Addiction to these types of drugs can occur and withdrawals can be fatal if not monitored by professionals.
Examples of Opiates and Opioids: Opiates are any naturally occurring chemical found in poppy plants and is used to make morphine. Heroin and Codeine are examples of opiates derived from Morphine. Prescribed Opioids would be medication like, Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, Methadone. If you see “one” or “ine” at the end of your prescribed medication it is probably an Opioid or an Opiate.
Opiates and Opioids are prescribed to control pain, and help with relaxation.
What should a parent look for if their child is abusing these types of medications? Nausea and vomiting, very sleepy all the time, itching, dry mouth, constipation, shallow breathing, slowed heart rate, seizures, coma, death are all possible with abusing these medications. Addiction to these types of drugs can occur and withdrawals could be deadly if not monitored by professionals.
How do we keep our children from getting access to these medications?
When you bring your prescription home from the pharmacy, take an inventory of what you have in the pill bottles. Be aware of how many pills you have taken and how many you are suppose to have left. Secure your prescriptions in a location that can be locked or a place that is not easily accessible to anyone other than you. When you are finished with the medicine dispose of them properly. Do not leave unused or expired medication in your medicine cabinet. Taking responsibility as a parent will help your child to not be tempted in taking your medicine because of curiosity or peer pressure.
Here are some of the street jargon that you might hear from your teen or friends of your child:
* Pharming: pronounced “farming” Getting high by taking medications from their parents
* Pharm Parties: Parties where teens bring prescription drugs from home and mix them in a bowl. This is called “trail mix”. They grab a handful of the mix regardless of what mixture is in the bowl
* Pilz: Pills prescribed or Over the Counter
* Recipe: Prescription drugs mixed with alcohol or other beverages.
Our first step to protect our children from the risks of prescription drug abuse is communication. We need to be proactive rather than reactive. The more we can educate ourselves as parents the easier it is to communicate with our kids.